||Solvang Century and Half
This was an awesome ride and weekend getaway. We lucked out with great weather this year.
All the hotels were sold out so we ended up at the Quality Inn in Buelton. I knew it was all we could get, but I would not recommend this place. Hard beds & situated right on the freeway. On the plus side they do offer free breakfast.
Four friends from work and I arrived on Friday evening. We hit packet pickup around 645pm. It ws busy but went smoothly. The Expo was up and running with good variety of vendors so we walked around a bit before dinner. Hit a pasta buffet at the Meadow restaurant, then hit the hay.
Saturday morning dawned with fog as thick as pea soup. As a group we headed out around 730am. We ran into a huge group of riders just underway on Hwy 246 so we joined them instead of riding all the way into Solvang (about 3-4 mi further) to the official starting line.
I did the half. The first 23 miles or so were comfortable enough to enjoy the scenery: green fields, rolling vineyards, cows (not in the vineyards), etc. The thick fog made it surreal: people ahead of me just disappeared! It also made for cold hands. After about an hour or so, the fog started to break up and at the first sag stop it was sunny and warm. This first stop (it looked like an empty airplane hanger) was well supported with a bike tech, portapotties, water and fruit.
After the stop, we took off through neighborhoods and the century group split off after a mile or two. The half continued thru neighborhoods and then got back onto Hwy 246 for the final 20 miles or so. Mostly flat with a few rollers. 74 degrees by now so plenty warm and the wind was starting to pick up. More cars and trucks, but not bad in my opinion as the roads were wide. The wind continued to increase, which really impacted the century riders. From what I heard, they had killer hills and switchbacks at the end of their ride.
I pulled back into Solvang and the finish line in about 2:30, very comfortable. My takeaways from this experience were nutrition (tried new gels and didn't take in too much) and drafting (many oppotunities to practice this) as well as testing out my last bike fit (great, but still need to fine tune my handle/aero bars)
So in closing, I'd highly recommend this ride and location. I did the Tour de Palm Springs last year and scenically, it doesn't compare. Be sure to book hotels EARLY and dinner reservations too!